Plaxo Wars: The Commenters Strike Back

I came across a very interesting discussion via a post and link on Mathew Ingram’s blog about Plaxo, the ubiquitous sender of emails offering you the chance to update your contact information. These are usually sent by someone I barely know, if I know them at all.

It all started (as best I can tell) when Charles O’Donnell, who works with Fred Wilson (a smart guy I like a lot) at Union Square Ventures, sent out one of those Plaxo emails and then blogged about it. Charles’ point was that he gets people to respond to his Plaxo update requests by adding humor to the request. Although I will probably never respond to another Plaxo update request (I confess to having done so a few times in the past), a funny request would raise the chance of a response from say 0% to maybe 0.2%. So my take is that I’m not going to reply, but it doesn’t twist me off to get a request from someone who I know or who knows me.

Then Michael Arrington posts a negative comment about Plaxo in a comment to Charles’ post, makes a corresponding post on TechCrunch and all hell breaks loose.

First of all, even though I am no Plaxo fan, I think Mike was a little too hard on Charles. But a spirited debate is always interesting and sometime informative and a spirited debate ensued in the comments to Mike’s post.

Charles’ day went from bad to worse when Stacy Martin, Plaxo Privacy Officer (Plaxo Privacy Officer should go into the job name hall of fame on the first ballot), joined the discussion. First she and Mike engaged in a little semi-constructive banter, then she turned on Charles and said that he violated Plaxo’s terms of service. Somehow, I have a hard time buying that it’s up to Charles to make sure Plaxo doesn’t allow Charles to spam Mike. Even if Charles were a spammer instead of a (probably former now) Plaxo user, Plaxo should never let the foxes guard the hen house.

Steve McFarland, as quoted in Mathew’s post, summed it all up thusly:

Plaxo, is like that senior citizen in the middle lane of the highway going 40 or the teenager that waltzes right past you to the front of the line at the coffee shop – they’ll never understand what it is they’re doing that’s so damn annoying because they. just. can’t.

Mathew points to another spirited debate involving Mike, Stacy and others, about Plaxo in the comments to a post Scoble made months ago about getting a tour of the Plaxo facilities. As an aside, Scoble says most of the Plaxo team shares a single room, but he did not say whether they call it the boiler room or not.

These are not the only examples of Plaxo frustration. Many others have posted rants about Plaxo.

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The Sad Tragic Death of Norton Utilities

Get out your crying towels, because I’m going to tell you a sad story.

Way back in the days of DOS there was this great suite of programs created by a genius named Peter Norton. They were called Norton Utilities. These programs helped maintain your computer by diagnosing and fixing problems and defragmenting the hard drive. The suite also included a disk editor, which I used all the time. In sum, most computer experts used Norton Utilities all the time back in the day.


In 1990 Norton sold his products, including Norton Utilities, to Symantec. Symantec kept the Norton brand and issued new versions of Norton Utilities and released new programs under the well respected Norton name, including Norton Antivirus. I used Norton Utilities up until Windows XP and still use Norton Antivirus. But that’s about to change, for three reasons.

Reason Number One: Conflicts and Resource Hogging

Symantec continues to load too many features into both Norton Utilities and Norton Antivirus that I don’t need and that I don’t want. Both programs have been notorious for years for creating conflicts with other programs and for causing startup and shutdown problems. All of that is irritating, but, given my historical loyalty to the Norton brand, I have thus far overlooked these problems. In the newest version of Norton Antivirus, however, Symantec has added the incredibly annoying Norton Protection Center. This bloatware takes up system tray space and generally seems to be yet another unnecessary resource hog. I don’t want this program, and if I’d known about it before I installed the new version, I would have taken the box back and found another antivirus program. After spending 10 minutes on the net trying unsuccessfully to find out how to remove or disable Norton Protection Center, I gave up and uninstalled Norton Antivirus completely. Simple is better, and with this unwelcome addition, Symantec has finally waddled across the bloatware line.

Reason Number Two: Shameless Upselling

Not only is the Norton Protection Center a blight on my computer in and of itself, it also seems to be nothing more than a thinly disguised ad for other Symantec products. C|Net had this to say about the Norton Protection Center:

[W]ith this year’s debut of the Norton Protection Center, Norton AntiVirus 2006 has lost that uncluttered usability. The Norton Protection Center appears both as a separate icon in the system tray as well as a separate window within the software’s control console. Most of the Protection Center’s functions are useful, such as the alerts it sends if you don’t have the latest virus definitions or haven’t run a system scan in a while and the bar graph in the Status window. However the Protection Center is focused on upselling Symantec’s other products to you rather than providing any new, useful security information. For instance, if you ask to learn more about data recovery, you’re taken directly to the Norton SystemWorks 2006 product page on Symantec’s Web site.

Reason Number Three: Rootkit, Round 2

eWeek reported yesterday that, on the heels of the Sony rootkit fiasco, Symantec has admitted using a rootkit-type feature in Norton SystemWorks that could provide the perfect hiding place for attackers to place malicious files on computers. Symantec, of all people, should know better than this.

It took 15 years, but Symantec has managed to ruin what was once a great set of utilities. I am in the market for a new antivirus program and would love some suggestions in the Comments.

If you want to see more neat old ads like the one above, check out this page.

Digital Music Update

The other day, when I was discussing the vast and unnecessary limitations that online music sellers place on downloaded music files via DRM, I decided to cancel my Rhapsody subscription because (a) Rhapsody is now owned by RealNetworks, maker of Real Player, that bloated and computer hogging software that I detest, and (b) there is a new version of Rhapsody that allows you to buy DRM infested downloadable music files. Previously, Rhapsody was a burn to CD only service (you ended up with CDs and not DRM infested music files).

Well, when I logged onto Rhapsody to cancel, I was quickly reminded of why I avoid RealNetworks software like the plague. When I finally found the page describing how to cancel your account, I found this little jewel:


So, even though you can sign up, upgrade and buy music online, to cancel you are forced to call a telephone number and speak to someone. And of course the telephone number only works during business hours. I remember having the exact same problem in the past when trying to cancel RealNetworks services.

I’ll call on Tuesday. And I’ll vote with my keyboard and my wallet. No RealNetwork products. Not now, not ever.

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